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A Real Olympic Story

Written by: Mary Ann Wootton
When asked to write an article in August I was given completely free rein over the subject. With such creative freedom, I was spoilt for choice as to a myriad of topics but eventually decided that no current article could be deemed complete unless it touched upon the subject of the Olympics. At the point of my decision I had no idea how brilliantly Great Britain would perform in the games, managing to achieve the highest record for medals of any GB team away from home. Our team record for any Olympics though is the spectacular 1908 Olympics where the team topped the medal table on home soil with a whopping 146 medals - that’s something to aim for the next time we host the games!

However, I’m not going to write about our success at the Olympics. In fact, I’m not going to write about Great Britain’s part in the Olympics at all. There’s one story from the games that really jumped out at me and didn’t get quite as much media coverage as I think it deserves. Yes, lots of people wrote about the event but it soon got swept up in all the glory of medals and success thus making it very quickly ‘old news’.

I’ll attempt to set the scene - a running track in Rio with the sun beating down on the athletes’ backs as they pace themselves for a long grueling 5000m to qualify for the Olympic final. This is possibly one of the most important times in their careers - to make it to an Olympic final is a huge achievement and I’m sure the importance of placing in this race was weighing heavily in everyone’s minds. As they pass the halfway mark of the race, all the athletes are in their stride and huddled in the best positions possible on the track, creating a tight cluster of bodies all seeming to move as one as they make their way through lap after lap.

With 8 laps to go the unimaginable happens for 2 of the women - Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand tripped in the throng of women and fell face first causing America’s Abbey D’Agostino who was behind her to also fall. D’Agostino was the first one to her feet and helped Hamblin to get up. However, it was quickly apparent that D’Agostino had sustained an injury to her leg in the fall when she fell to the ground for a second time, clearly in pain. It would have been very easy for Hamblin to leave her there and carry on with the race to try and gain some ground on the lead that the other runners had made. Instead, she showed possibly the best example of sporting behaviour in the Olympic games by helping her fellow competitor to get back up and encourage her to complete the race. Those two athletes showed real compassion for their fellow human beings and placed this ahead of competition and success. Their behaviour was rewarded when they were both placed in the final, despite having come last in the qualifying race. It should also be recognised that the Olympic committee themselves are a shining example to the world in actually recognising such an act - this would often have been overlooked by many other organisations.

This shows that a little humanity can go a long way. Out of all those runners who were aware of the two women falling, not one of them turned round to see if they were all right or to offer assistance. Instead they were concentrating on their own personal success and many would say this was rightly so, as all the athletes had trained hard for that moment. However, here is a fine example that by looking out for those around you and showing compassion in circumstances that usually require us to be selfish, the rewards can come back to you - in this circumstance the reward was an obvious one, with the runners being passed through to the final as a result of their behaviour. In real life, rewards for such behaviour are often not quite so obvious or quick to reveal themselves, but you can live with the knowledge that you have done the best you can for others and that feeling of helping someone else cannot be matched or exceeded by any reward given.
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